You already know how sitting around all day is one of the worst things you can do for your health, which is why that coworker of yours is so insistent on his $400 standing desk. But recent reports show that if you’re not using that standing desk properly, it can actually do more harm than good (think: leg pain, back soreness, or worse). But what makes standing desks healthier than sitting isn’t necessarily the act of standing itself; it’s the movement associated with standing.
“If you’re standing in the same position all day, the effects can be just as bad as sitting because you’re not mobilizing your joints and it can put a strain on your circulatory system,” explains Daily Burn 365 trainer Becca Pace.
But the movements you do while standing don’t need to be complicated (we’re not talking push-ups, burpees, or the electric slide here). Doing some super simple barre and yoga poses can help relieve the most tightly wound hips, chests, shoulders and backs.
If you’re embarrassed about making a scene at the office, don’t be! Your co-workers will be impressed by your yogi moves, plus you’ll keep your joints and muscles happy. Hey, if you can’t stand to be at your desk, these poses will help you feel less chained to it.
Check out the video above (and detailed below) of Becca Pace’s yoga-inspired desk stretches. Do them throughout the day to help you maintain good posture and relieve joint and back stiffness. We promise you’ll instantly feel a little better!
5 Standing Desk Stretches to Relieve Stress Now
1. Standing Pigeon
At first glance, you might have second thoughts about putting your leg up on your desk. If the height of your desk is too tall, and you’re not able to swing your leg up on it, you can use your chair instead. “Pigeon pose is one of the best hip-opening exercises. I personally like it because I have pain in my piriformis muscle, which is a muscle in your butt area. It’s really tricky to release tension in this area of your body,” Pace says.
How to: Stand tall in front of your desk with your feet hip-distance apart (a). Bend your right knee and bring it close to your chest, standing tall with your left foot flat on the ground and your leg straight (b). Lay your bent right knee on the desk and keep your hands on your hips. To deepen the stretch, you can fold your upper body forward and lock your hands at the sides of your desk.
2. Dynamic Hamstring Stretch
If you have really tight hamstrings, it can manifest in unexpected places, like pain in the lower back, glutes, back of your thighs and lower butt. This classic yoga and barre move allows you to work through those kinks all with the help of your desk. Pace says you can hinge forward and reach for your toes if you’re flexible to get a double hamstring stretch.
How to: Lift your left leg up on your desk and straighten it, forming a 90-degree angle to the floor. Keep your hands at your hips (a). Try slightly bending your knee on your standing leg to further deepen the stretch (b). Hold this pose for a few breaths before switching legs.
3. Dynamic Quad Stretch
Standing or sitting in one position can put pressure on your thighs and cause tightness. A dynamic quad stretch can help open up your hip flexors. But this pose can be a little tricky if you don’t have great balance or coordination. “Use a wall or chair for balance purposes. If you want to make this a more active stretch, fire up and engage the muscles to activate them,” Pace advises.
How to: Stand tall and face away from your desk (a). Lift your left leg off the ground and keep it bent. Place the top of your foot on top of your desk (b). Keep your hands at your hips. You can slightly bend your standing leg to deepen the stretch (c). Hold this pose for a few breaths before moving onto the other leg.
4. Heart-Opening Bridge
The bridge is one of the most restorative yoga poses. It’s a dynamic way of opening your chest and shoulders and strengthening your mid back. “It also opens up your elbows, hip flexors and quadriceps,” Pace adds. The stretch can be great for your wrists, too, which can feel tense after typing for hours on end.
How to: Stand tall and face away from your desk (a). Point your toes towards the wall in front of you. Place your hands behind you on your desk with your fingers facing the opposite direction of your feet (b). Lift your chest up towards the ceiling, roll your shoulders back and gently press hips forward. It’s best to press through the hips rather than arch the lower back.
5. Thread the Needle
When you sit or stand up for most of the day, you tend to round out your spine and hunch over your desk. “The threading the needle pose is really great for stretching your shoulders and opening your chest. This standing spinal twist is also good for improving your range of motion and posture,” Pace says.
How to: Start in a standing child’s pose with your hands flat on the desk in front of you, and your head and eyes facing down (a). Your feet should be feet hip-width apart, and your hips should align with a straight back (b). Take your right arm and thread it underneath your left arm so your hand points to the left wall. Hold this pose for a few breaths and then switch sides.
Originally published June 2016. Updated September 2016.